dainty dulcie and donald duck

In the 30s, 40s and 50s Dulcie Markham was the prettiest and most notorious woman in Australia’s underworld. Nearly all of her criminal lovers died violently after jousting with the jinx.


In 1934 she married hoodlum Frank Bowen. The marriage only lasted a couple of years but they remained friends until he was shot dead in Kings Cross in 1940. She left Bowen to move in with underworld figure Alfred Dillon but was soon having an affair with 21 year old Scotty McCormack. Dillon stabbed him to death and was sentenced to 13 years for manslaughter. As he was led from the dock he shouted out to Dulcie that he would always love her.


Her next lover, Arthur Taplin was shot dead at the Cosmopolitan in 1937. After that she took up with mobster Guido Calleti who was shot at a Kings Cross party in 1939. No one was ever convicted and he was given the most spectacular gangster funeral in Sydney’s history. Dulcie did not attend although she had been there to weep over the body as it lay in a Darlinghurst funeral parlour.


In 1940 she took up with Melbourne criminal John Abrahams who was shot dead outside a twoup school that same year. She promptly moved in with another well known gangster who was arrested a month later for Abraham’s murder.


The war years meant big earnings for prostitutes and Dulcie was no exception. Unlike others in her trade, her name was well known to the public as she was constantly in trouble such as the time she was arrested on a Melbourne Street clad only in panties and brandishing an axe at a client who argued about her fee.


Her reputation grew through the 1940s when two of her former admirers Donald “the Duck” Day and Leslie “Scotland Yard” Walkerden were murdered.

In 1951 she was drinking with friends when gunmen burst through the door and shot dead one of her companions and left Dulcie with a bullet in her hip. Below is an excerpt from an article by Brian Matthews detailing what happened next

Fawkner Street 1909

The most famous resident of Fawkner Street was ‘Pretty Dulcie’ Markham, a gangster’s moll who married one Leonard ‘Redda’ Lewis in her Fawkner Street house. This was a doubly significant date for ‘Redda’. Not only was it the day of his delight, it was also the last of the seven days the local police had given him to get out of St Kilda. The occasion was attended by numbers of uniformed and plain-clothes state functionaries who, sensitive to the holiness of the proceedings, remained shadowy in their cars while thoughtfully blocking off both ends of the road.

About a month earlier, Pretty Dulcie’s Fawkner Street residence had been the scene of a very different ceremony during which ex-boxer, Gavan Walsh, was shot dead, his brother, Desmond, was injured and Pretty Dulcie herself copped a bullet in the hip. The matrimonial legacy of this was that the bride was able to set off her outfit with a white cast on one leg. She and ‘Redda’ were married in the very room where Gavan Walsh got his, which prompted a Truth reporter to ask, with the refined punctilio for which that paper was known, if she had any qualms about mixing marriage and violent death.


‘Not a fuckin’ one,’ said the bride.

Pretty Dulcie was not one for the niceties either of language or behaviour. My Aunt Tilly, walking out behind Dulcie from the ladies’ toilet of the Middle Park Hotel one afternoon and having no idea at the time who she was dealing with, noticed that Dulcie’s dress was accidentally hooked up at the back. Helpfully, my aunt flicked the offending bit down for her, whereupon, before a word of explanation could be offered, Pretty Dulcie turned and intimated her gratitude by saying, ‘You lay a finger on me again and I’ll have the boys break your fuckin’ arms.’ To which she added a number of other recommendations very difficult to carry out, even if Tilly had had the slightest idea what they meant.”


Yet again the union didn’t last, her new husband was shot on two different occasions by unknown assailants and they split up after 18 months. In 1955, after an argument with a visitor, Dulcie was thrown from the top floor of a block of flats in Bondi. Hospitalised with fractured ribs and internal injuries, she maintained she had ‘fallen down some stairs’.

Eventually Dulcie married again, living happily with her third husband until she died in 1976 in a fire caused by smoking in bed. Her husband told reporters “I loved her deeply, she was a wonderful housewife”.

housewife tarot

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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Donald “the Duck” really doesn’t invoke fear in a person.

    • Yeah, I’m not exactly quaking in my boots. Quacking maybe….

  2. It seems to my eye that the definition of “pretty” has changed over the decades.

    A mobster named “Guido?” Could he be more obvious?

    I like it when girls talk dirty, but not in conjunction with the arm-breaking nonsense.

    • Want to hazard a guess what the “other recommendations” were?

  3. i will have to invoke the tale of Dulcie the next time a man comments that i’m rather intimidating.

    • The next time…..? how many times has it happened daisyfae?

      • a lot. and a few of the ones who should have been intimidated, failed to make the right call. (sigh) good thing i’ve got a dog.

  4. Despite the history of their predecessors, I guess these guys all thought “happily ever after” with Dulcie was in the cards.
    Live and learn (or learn and live) – not applicable.

    • I don’t think any of them thought it through

  5. Daisyfae is rather intimidating ……. that’s one more for a start ……

  6. Lots of trigger happy people out there

  7. I love the housewife tarot cards. I had to Google “Two-up School”, and it was fascinating. Your posts are remarkable, NM. A perfect blend of entertainment and historical education.

    • I wondered if twoup was known to those outside Australia…. it’s usually only played here on Anzac Day now as it’s mostly illegal now

      • I had to Google it as well. And now I know. 🙂

  8. I’m going to have to stock up on some knowledge of Australia’s underworld of which I know embarrassingly little.

    Speaking of spectacular gangster funerals, did you see any clips of John Gotti’s in NYC?

    • The American Mob Boss – Vito Genevese died in (thinking) late 60s early 70s had a huge funeral in newark. rip’s uncle mike was part of the genovese crew. rip remembers his dad being told that “none of the boys are going”. they were all told not to because the feds would be there. still it was a huge funeral.

      rip also had an uncle who was a dr who took care of richie-boy buoardi (sp?) aka richie the boot after a shhoot out. they hid him in a third story house that rip’s grandmother lived in newark. until the day his grandmother died at every christmas she would get a case of champagne in appreciation. sorry but scott mentioned gotti and got me thinking…

    • Gotti’s funeral was a florist’s dream

  9. nursemyra, i’ve been meaning to ask you for over a year now: just what is it with all the scandal and debauchery that appeals to you? you seem like a nice girl and heaven knows you are candy on the eyes.. but seems there’s an inner bad-girl hiding just underneath the surface of your sweetness, begging to get out! heaven help the people of greece for they know not what’s coming on your next holiday! ♥

    • ha! as daisyfae will tell you, I’m really a very quiet little bookworm. I may be a hellraiser in the bedroom but I’m no party animal. I don’t drink much and I prefer staying home to going out….. Greece has nothing to fear from me.

      daisyfae on the other hand…… and of course now there’s Dolce the wild card coming along for the ride…..

      • it is my intention to get the good nurse liquored up on ouzo, and see how she’ll do in a tavern brawl… we have an island to conquer!

  10. Dulcie – such a demure name. I suspect her folks didn’t expect her to turn out quite this way.

    • Actually I think they werent much better. Their families were certainly known by the police. Dulcie was my husbands aunt. Dulcies father took off soon after her birth and her mother put her and my husbands mother in an orphanage in the early 1920s.

  11. YeGods did she have a commission arrangement with the Grim Reaper?

    • One would think so…..

  12. the last guy was probably so bloody relieved it wasn’t him that dies first ……

  13. I’ve yet to have a woman publicly chase me in her underwear wielding an axe. I wonder if I’m missing something. It might be extremely exciting!

    • Woman in underwear = exciting

      Woman wielding axe = not so much

      • Axe wearing underwear = ?

  14. I really like the picture of the arms and the vase!

  15. What an exhausting way to live a life!

    • You thought of the perfect comment, my dear. I was somewhat at a loss for words at this tale. Two comments came to mind. Keep doing the same thing and the same result will keep occurring. or, less nicely, Lie down with dogs and you will get up with fleas.

      Personally I prefer my dull little criminal free life.

      • woof woof 😉

  16. Sounds like my wife

  17. You’d think that the other guys would have figured out to stay away from her when dead husband 2 3and 4 come up. But no, they thought with their “other brain.”

  18. I count nine violent deaths of husbands, lovers, and friends. You would think a wonderful housewife like Dulcie would have a hard time finding a boyfriend no matter what her assets and talents may have been!

  19. P.S. Maybe she wore a lot of corsets…

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